Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thanksgiving was good. It started off a bit rough, with a rough conversation, but the conversation turned out to be a blessing to all involved, and we had a marvelous holiday: me in the kitchen mostly, and Collin working on his car with his dad. (I'm so glad he has a hobby other than reading stats and psych books/articles.)

I have some pictures I will post below of Thanksgiving, but now it's Christmastime, seeing as Advent has begun and the Christmas tree is erected and decorated in true family form, and I want to post a couple of thoughts smooshing my brain. (These thoughts were already smooshing my brain, but thanks to awesome friend's blog post, they're at the forefront right at this moment.)

To send or not to send a Christmas card this year?

Every time I think about sending a Christmas card, I get tense, and I stress out...but I also really want to do it. Why? I'm not sure my motivations are sound. The stressers usually include: Do we even have money for this? But I love getting Christmas cards, and what if no one sends me one? (Note: poor motivation.) But I don't have time for that. I'll have to gather all those addresses (because I will NEVER have them in one place), and what if I miss someone, which I'll surely do, and do I send them to church friends, because there are so many, but they're my best friends, and do I find a picture we've already taken (is there one?!), or do I stress about getting a new one? Oh...WHEN am I going to get this done?!

Time. Out.

Do I even have to send a Christmas card? And if I do, does it HAVE to have a picture? The thought of not sending a Christmas card simultaneously makes me sad and relaxed. I just don't know. I DO want to send one, because it seems fun, and I haven't done it since the baby was born, but apparently it isn't fun for me? I do want to receive them from friends, but is that my motivation? And is that okay?

All to say, I would love your thoughts on the Christmas-card-sending experience.

Second: I am considering only giving candies as presents this year. (I would make them, of course. Every year we received these particular candies from our neighbors the Sights, and every year I couldn't wait until they arrived. They were and remain my favorite Chrismtas candy...and they're not really even a "Christmas" candy.) But as I sat and made my list of whom I would send them to, I couldn't help but worry that most people receiving them will be displeased not to have received a "real" present this year.

I'm certain this isn't the case...because that even looks ugly. There is no way my family, or Collin's, with maybe the exception of teenagers, will be upset receiving candies from us. But I keep worrying that they will.

JESUS SAYS NOT TO WORRY, MEGHAN. I know, I know. And I tell my husband this very truth often. I guess the tides have turned.

Oooooooh, side note...the bread in my bread machine is starting to smell gooooood.

Okay, that's enough for now. Here are the Thanksgiving pics. I was in charge of two types of potatoes, cranberry relish (which I forgot to add pecans to, oops!) and a pie. My first homemade pie crust. A semi-success. It needed lard.

Sweet girl with runny nose.

Candied "yams." (What is a yam?)

Nom nom nom...

Pie crust. (Collin every so kindly remarked, "Meghan, I believe this particular crimped area doesn't look as well crimped as the rest," then smirked when I gasped. I was a woman on the edge. Good thing he was kidding.)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Frozen Meals: Homemade Version

I've been doing what I can to save money in the food department - since we're rebudgeting and cutting everywhere. Fun!

Actually, it is. It's like a game. My dear friend Jessie loaned me a book called Miserly Moms that has given me a lot of great ideas (as has Jessie), and I've gleaned what I can from a number of other friends as well. What I've learned so far? I can save a LOT more money than I thought.

For example, after my first round of grocery shopping to get started with this new "system," I've spent around $60 per week on groceries for a family of four (including house items like laundry deterrgent, diapers for baby, etc.). Incredible. I shudder to think of the money I've wasted over the years. I could have invested and been rich!

So, what am I doing (for starters)? Buying meat in bulk and making my own chicken broth and bread (Collin eats a LOT of bread), and eating vegetarian at least twice a week, and using less meat in meals in general (most of the time). It's amazing how simple it is.

First, I sat down and made a list of all the meals that I like to cook and that I can cook fairly easily (with "normal" ingredients). I came up with just under 40. Then I posted the list (organized into groups like beef, chicken, soup, vegetarian, etc.) on the fridge.

Second, I created a menu for the week to come. This was a Sunday night. It really didn't take long, and I can't believe I've not done this before. I posted this list on the fridge too.

The first thing I did was cook a whole chicken - the meat of which I'm still using (two weeks later) - then made broth out of the carcass and saved it in 2-cup portions in the freezer. By making meals that I can freeze half of, we practically cut our weekly budget in half. And I don't have to cook as much! Though I do love to cook, I also love the idea of only having to slice an avocado and some tomato from our dwindling garden while I throw my frozen pan of enchiladas in the oven. They're still homeade, and I don't have to spend an extra 45 minutes in the kitchen.

As far as non-dinner things go, Drue eats meat and cheese and fruit. I keep at least a box of some type of cracker around for snacks. She also loves my egg salad, which I've been making a huge batch of each week and eating on bread for lunch. Collin's lunches are fairly simple as well: a turkey sandwich and an apple with a bag of peanuts and Cheerios for a snack.

Breakfasts are PB toast for me and Drue and Grape Nuts and yogurt for Collin (Drue loves yogurt to). I've found a recipe for homeade Grape Nuts, which should save us some dough. And I'm really enjoying baking bread each week. Buy one cheap bag of flour and a jar of yeast, and you've got bread for weeks!

Fun times in the Barnes Kitchen.